24 January 2012

"Human Nature": Posts towards a course on "Society, Culture and Biology"

One important point to draw out in a course on "Society, Culture and Biology" is the tension between beliefs in the 'immutable nature of man' and the equally profound view that 'humans are malleable creatures.' It seems that one source of distinction between both views derives from the question of authority. Among ancient philosophers and in natural theology circles it was commonplace to see an immutable nature. That view was contested in a variety of philosophical traditions, but especially by Rousseau and Marx. At issue, then, in the question of an evolutionary human nature, which on its face denotes a mutable but continuous biological nature, is whether humans have evolved to the point where they have emancipated themselves completely from their inherited past. Or whether, in contrast, humans remain deeply enmeshed biological creatures in large part determined by neolithic and paleolithic pasts. Comment if you have any thoughts!